Marijuana is now legal in California for both medicinal and recreational use. But, as the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals recently explained, that doesn’t mean pot is off limits for courts considering child custody cases.
Mother and Father divorced in 2012, following some 17 years of marriage in which they had four children. “The couple enjoyed a lavish lifestyle during their marriage,” according to the Fourth District, thanks largely to investment income of more than $1 million per year. Mother moved to California with the three youngest kids after separating from Father. He and the oldest child later also moved west.
A trial judge wasn’t pleased with either parent when it came time to determine custody. The judge found that both Mother and Father “lied about important facts” and appeared more concerned about their own needs than those of the children. Although Father appeared to be more involved than Mother in the kids’ lives, the court found that the children were not his first priority. It said Father “involved the children in a destructive loyalty contest by constantly bad-mouthing Mother and referring to her by derogatory terms.” Mother, on the other hand, appeared to relegate most of her child-rearing duties to her employees. The court said she was “not able to put the children’s needs ahead of her personal and social life.”
The judge also found that Father was a “heavy” marijuana user. It added that Father “is well past the point he can be a casual user, and he must stop altogether.” The court also concluded based on text message evidence that Father was sharing the drug with his children. The court ultimately ordered the parents to share custody of the two kids in boarding school and limited Father’s time with his two youngest children. It also made clear that it would consider changing the arrangement if Father continued to abuse marijuana.
Father didn’t challenge the custody arrangement on appeal, but he did say the trial court mischaracterized his marijuana use. The Fourth District disagreed, saying there was substantial evidence to support the judge’s conclusion that Father was a heavy marijuana user. Father himself said he had a prescription to use the drug for medicinal purposes. Mother testified that he used marijuana twice a day for some 18 years. The couple’s daughter also testified at a separate hearing that Father used marijuana daily, that she found paraphernalia in his coat, and that he had supplied weed to the kids.
As a result, the Court upheld the lower court’s ruling.
This case is a good example of some of the issues that can come up generally in child custody disputes. If you’re considering a divorce or are grappling with child custody and other issues in California, contact San Jose child custody attorney John S. Yohanan. With more than 30 years of experience, Mr. Yohanan is an accomplished family law attorney who has helped a number of clients resolve a wide variety of marital disputes. Call our office at (408) 297-0700 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.
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